BOSTON (CBS) -- As a team, it's been a rough stretch for the Boston Red Sox. The losses have piled up, as have the COVID-19 cases. It's been a struggle.
Individually, it's been tough for Jarren Duran, too. Called up in July after an explosive first half in Triple-A, the 24-year-old was sent back to Worcester last week, after striking out 33 times in 86 at-bats. He returned to the big leagues just days after the demotion, striking out seven times in his next 20 at-bats, including two strikeouts on Wednesday night in Tampa.
So when he stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning in a 2-2 game, with the go-ahead run on second base, Duran was eager to make a positive contribution. With an RBI single into right field, he did exactly that.
"I was just thinking about the team the whole at-bat," Duran said after Adam Ottavino closed out the 3-2 victory. "You know, like, 'This one's for the team. I gotta do something for the boys.' I just haven't been doing much for the team, so I was just trying to step up in a big moment for them."
Duran said his previous three at-bats -- two strikeouts and a fly out to center -- weren't on his mind.
"I go into every at-bat with a positive attitude," he said. "And like I said, I was just thinking about the team, trying to clutch up for the guys and help us get a win."
The win stopped a skid of three straight losses for Boston, and gives the Red Sox a chance to split the four-game series with the division-leading Rays. It also improved the Red Sox to 4-0 in games when Chris Sale has started this year.
"That was big," Sale said of the win. "There's no doubt we've had some gut punches over the last week, week and a half. Obviously even before then. But to know that we've still got some fight left in us, we've got some kick. No one in here's giving up. Out attitude and effort is staying the same, no matter who's in this clubhouse and who's not."
Sale added: "We've been kicked. We've been punched. To see us fight like that and win a game the way we just won that game, that's a momentum boost."
Duran had been hitting just .150 since getting recalled last Thursday when he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning. Facing Pete Fairbanks, who mowed the Red Sox down with three strikeouts on Monday night, Duran stepped in after Rafael Devers singled to end an eight-pitch at-bat and after Alex Verdugo sent a two-strike single the other way. Manager Alex Cora said that Duran likely benefited from seeing all of those pitches, helping him stay on a breaking ball and deliver what proved to be the game-winning hit.
"That was a great win. Everybody was into it. It was a great baseball game, let's put it that way," Cora said. "Just staying on that breaking ball and putting it in play was awesome. You've gotta have a short memory, and I know he's probably upset that he struck out before that a few at-bats, but he put the ball in play there and gave us a chance to win the game. And we did."
Duran's now hitting .215 with a .578 OPS at the major league level this year, a far cry from his .911 OPS at Triple-A. While it hasn't been easy, Duran noted how he's remain focused on improving every day.
"Yeah I mean, I come in every day, I put in the work. It's the MLB for a reason, it's the big leagues for a reason. The best of the best are up here," Duran said. "So I'm just taking strides every day, step by step, just trying to get better for the team."
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